I’m a boy mom. With four boys ranging from 8 months old to 8 years old, I live in a house filled with legos, light sabers, and a lot of noise. It’s actually a pretty good gig.
But as a mom to these precious boys, I’m also aware of too many statistics that give me plenty of reason to sit up and pay attention. Statistics like those in the report, The State of Boyhood, which surmises that, as a group, boys are far more likely to get lower grades, more likely to achieve lower literacy levels, more likely show lower engagement, and more likely to drop out than are girls.
- For every 100 girls expelled from elementary and secondary schools, 335 boys are expelled.
- For every 100 girls diagnosed with emotional disturbance 324 boys are diagnosed with emotional disturbance.
- For every 100 females ages 15 to 19 that commit suicide 549 males in the same range kill themselves.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is the awareness that has come from recent tragedies. Mass killings, while rare, are overwhelmingly perpetrated by males. One reviewer of the grisly history puts the number at 94.4%. And in most recent US history, the majority have been young males — in their late teens and twenties
I look through all of these statistics and picture more than numbers. These were all sons. Before they were statistics, before they were vacant eyes, they were someone’s little boys. I can’t help but wonder what happened.
Some say it’s about video games, or family instability, emotional disturbances, or a violent culture. But any researcher or observer who’s really being honest will tell you it’s actually a lot of things.
Dr. James Garbarino, author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them explains it as “accumulation of risk”. Like a tower of blocks, he says, there are only so many you can stack before the whole tower tumbles. ” You can’t really say that the last block is the cause of the fall because if that block were there by itself, it wouldn’t fall over. Indeed, the research shows that it is the accumulation of risk factors that does the damage.” (Source)
Throughout this year, I’ll be exploring some of those risk factors in more in-depth posts. I’ll also look at the other side of the equation: the positive things boys need.
The Search Institute refers to them as “assets”. Following their research, they’ve developed a framework of 40 Developmental Assets that promote healthy development and positive outcomes. With tailored changes by age range, they list 40 Developmental Assets for Early Childhood (age 3-5), Primary Grades (grades K-3), Middle Childhood (ages 8-12), and Adolescents (ages 12-18).
I’ll focus on items on this list as well as lists composed by other experts in this field of research. I want to figure out how to build strong boys, because as Frederick Douglas said:
Of course, girls today face their fair share of challenges, and I have several posts planned to address some of those issues as well. But for this series, the focus is boys. At least once a month I’ll be writing about risk factors and assets for boys and how we can work together to build strong boys.
Now, I don’t want this to be misunderstood. I’m not a fan of man-bashing, and I certainly don’t believe there’s something inherently evil in the Y chromosome. While all the stats I mentioned above are extremely troubling, I do have to say that I believe the majority of boys and men are good, noble people. I’ve seen them around me my whole life. I’ve watched time and again as men and boys have given selfless service or shown that chivalry is indeed not dead. If you need to see some evidence of the young male heroes around us, learn about Connor Long or the Queen Creek Football Team. (You won’t regret watching these videos!)
I want to learn more – and share more – about what might make the difference. What are some of the pieces separating the young men in those videos and the young men in the statistics that make mothers and fathers of boys worry. From “failure to launch” and apathy, to violence and indescribable rampage, I want to find out what some of the missing pieces are.
I want to build strong boys. I hope you’ll join me.
What risk factors or positive assets do you want to learn more about?
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